London councils have pointed out that Trinity Mirror, whose chief executive has openly criticised council-run newspapers, prints seven of them in the capital.
Trinity Mirror prints a number of the nine council-run newspapers that appear in London at its Watford print plant under a contract led by Tower Hamlets Council, the Guardian reported today.
The papers include the weeklies Tower Hamlets’ East End Life and Greenwich Time, the fortnightly titles Hackney Today, Waltham Forest News, Lambeth Life and Barking and Dagenham’s paper The News, as well as the monthly title Redbridge Life.
Last week, Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey hit out at council-run newspapers saying they “should be stopped” calling them ‘mini Pravdas’and ‘propaganda dressed up as journalism”.
London mayor Boris Johnson added his voice to the debate branding council-run newspapers as a “ludicrous waste of money”.
Bailey, who singled out the paper run by Hammersmith & Fulham council in West London as an example of papers she believed should be stopped, went on the attack again this week calling the Audit Commission’s conclusion that local authorities were not wasting or misusing public money through the publication of council-run newspapers ‘a complete waste of time”.
A spokeswoman for Hackney Council told the Guardian: “In Hackney we have an excellent working relationship with Trinity Mirror who print our council paper and who put a huge amount of effort into pitching for the contract.
“It seems odd, to say the least, that Sly Bailey so vocally opposes those publications which she is happy to print, and happy to bill us every month for.”
A Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “We are highly supportive of both the social and statutory need for councils to communicate with their tax payers and as a major contract printer of newspapers in the UK we can offer highly competitive and cost effective solutions for our clients.
“Our objection is not about councils communicating with their tax payers but the style, content and frequency of these ‘newspapers’.
‘During the past few years some councils have changed the format of these publications to a ‘tabloid’newspaper style to include news, features, property pages, what’s-on guides and sport and to pay for the professional journalists required they are taking on third party advertising.
‘Importantly it is not clear these newspapers would be recognised by a reader as a council publication.
“These propaganda newspapers go far beyond their remit and are a threat to local democracy and the survival of a free and independent press.”